Sunday, 19 October 2014

Birds and Beaches

With our ferry from Wellington to Picton on Monday lunchtime we spent Sunday night in the city and had a chance to visit Te Papa - a large museum that attempts to tell the story of New Zealand from the first settlers, through the European settlers several centuries later, to the present day. A really interesting visit. We also took the opportunity of being in a large city to sort out Joe's thermarest (a self inflating rollmat) which had started to delaminate meaning that the layers were seperating and a pillow of air was forming where it shouldn't be! The area with the problem was slowly getting larger, not very practical for the start of a months camping. Fortunately there was an outdoor shop which sold them who put us in touch with the New Zealand distributers - just 20mins drive away - who confirmed that it wasn't fixable and handed Joe a brand new equivalent. It reminded us why it's sometimes nice to have kit with a lifetime guarentee!

It was a beautiful, if breezy, afternoon for our ferry crossing and that continued as we pitched up our tent in a tiny campsite on the banks of the Queen Charlotte Sound. While there we had out first encounter with a Weka - a flightless bird which is rare but curious and well known for stealing the odd teaspoon or sock from campers in this part of the world. This one kept us very amused checking out our tent, stove and almost empty porridge pan. The area was teeming with wildlife and the bay filled with jellyfish once dusk set in, the river bank was covered with glow worms during the night and we watched blue penguins swimming in the distance over breakfast. We really couldn't have asked for more.

We've spent a lot of time in the car this week, keeping an eye out all the time for the lookout points and walks that appear in all the prettiest points. One such walk - an hour loop along the coastline - had us watching spotted shags and pied shags nesting in trees just off the path. Each night we've pitched up the tent, often on beach front campsites, and set up the stove for a cup of tea and then dinner and a walk along the shore to see what there is to be seen - often a variety of gulls and oyster catchers. 

We've stopped in each of the main towns as we've passed through, enjoying the different range of shops and some of the Art Deco style architecture  that seems to be around a lot. Nelson was the largest of these, complete with closing down outdoor shop for a few bargains and an area surrounded by wineries. We had a quick change of plan and ended up spending two nights in the area rather than one, allowing us to explore properly and to do a wine tasting! The sun just kept shining through this part of the week really adding to the Mediterranean atmosphere. That was all about to change though as we ended the week with a drive down the west coast. I don't know what it is about west coasts but just like Scotland this one is known for its midges and rain and is living up to its expectations! That said the rain has by no means been constant and we've had some lovely sunny patches as well. 

We spent Thursday night at Punakaiki which is famous for it coastal rock formations. Having visited the Dorset coastline so often I think we've been spoilt for interesting geology - though the pancake rocks and blowholes were still definitely worth a visit. On the same stretch of coastline we also explored a cavern just signposted from the side of the road - putting our head torches to good use to wander through the high ceilinged caves. There are so many bits like that here that are looked after by the Department of Conservation and are advertised with just a simple sign. You're left to your own devices to explore in a rather refreshing way.

This weekend we're camping in Okarito - on the coast again, well positioned for a bit of time exploring the glaciers at Fox and Franz Josef, but also for the kayaking trip along a wildlife wetland we've booked for tomorrow morning. Fingers crossed the weather is better for that than last night - we're still drying out the clothes we were wearing as we pitched the tent! Have a good week everyone.


  1. A weka eh? What an astonishing looking bird....I am green with envy. Some fantastic pics here too, what a fantastic time you are

  2. julie.sisley@gmail.com20 October 2014 at 08:22

    Saw this after I sent the message. You are certainly ticking off lots of birds. I read up about the Weka, it's curiousity is it's downfall, it makes it too easy to catch and eat. You can see why.


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